The Supreme Court judgment setting a three-month deadline for the government for sanctioning the prosecution of public servants under the Prevention of Corruption Act was a slap in the government's face, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said Tuesday.
“BJP welcomes Supreme Court's judgment. This judgment is a slap in the face of Manmohan Singh government,” senior party leader Balbir Punj told reporters.
"It is a a judgment which will have far reaching consequences, in the citizens' fight against corruption and in empowering the citizens," he said.
He called it the second major embarrassment for government, and said the first was the Supreme Court striking down the appointment of PJ Thomas as chief vigilance commissioner.
“The first embarrassment this government faced was when prime minister had cleared Thomas's candidature as the CVC chief,” he said.
Punj also accused the government of not taking action against those involved in major corruption cases.
“Many people who are guilty and accused of acts of omission and commission are going scott free,” he said. “In the 2G case, so far only (A) Raja has been sent to jail, other people who occupy more important posts in government and were equally responsible are free”.
“I am sure, this latest judgment will help the law catch them,” he said.
The government, however, insisted that the Supreme Court's observation on sanction of prosecution in 2G case was not a setback to it and said it has taken a number of "proactive" anti-corruption measures that includes removal of discretionary powers for ministers.
Minister of state in PMO V Narayanasamy told PTI that the observations by the apex court did not "reflect upon" the functioning of the government and cannot be used as an instrument to "settle political scores."
"It is not a setback. It is not an issue where one can settle political scores...It is one of the observations made by the Supreme Court. Several matters come before the Supreme Court and the court gives its observation on those issues," he said.
He was responding when asked to comment on the Supreme Court holding that filing of a complaint under the Prevention of Corruption Act is a constitutional right of a citizen and the competent authority should decide within a time frame on granting sanction of prosecution of a public servant.
The minister said the UPA government has taken a number of "pro-active" measures on the anti-corruption front by introducing legislations like Lokpal and Citizens Charter.
"We proactively removed the provision for sanction to prosecute officials. This has been done in Lokpal. We have been taking a number of steps in this regard," he said.
The petitioner, Subramanian Swamy welcomed the Supreme Court verdict saying it has "simplified the issue" in graft cases lodged under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA).
Terming the ruling as a "victory for the Constitution and the war against corruption", Swamy said it has also "empowered all of us who are fighting against corruption."
"It has empowered the citizen to go directly to the court to seek an inquiry against any act of corruption without seeking a sanction," he said.
Swamy also lauded the apex court for fixing a four months' deadline for the sanctioning authority to take a decision on a plea for grant of sanction to prosecute a public servant, failing which the sanction would be deemed to have been given.
"The delay won't be accepted beyond three months as the government has to decide on sanction and if they want to consult the Attorney General, then one month more. So, maximum within four months, it (government) has to decide, else it will be treated as deemed sanction," he said.
He also urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to issue an ordinance amending section 19 of the PCA, which deals with grant of sanction for prosecution of a public servant.
"I urge the Prime Minister (PM) to atone for his past delay by issuing an ordinance amending section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act," he said.
Swamy said that the PM can now be approached directly by any private person seeking sanction.
"Anybody can (now) get inquiry conducted by the court without needing any sanction. Sanction is required only at the stage of trial and not at the stage of inquiry," he further said.
The Supreme Court Tuesday gave the government a three-month deadline for sanctioning public servants under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The apex court said this while allowing a petition by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy saying the prime minister was sitting on his application seeking sanction to prosecute former telecom minister A Raja for his alleged involvement in the 2G scam.
An apex court bench of justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly also said the time period would be extended by another month if the government wanted to take the opinion of the attorney general.
(With inputs from PTI and IANS)